The Iola Winter Sports Club recently sold a 47-acre easement to the Ice Age Trail Alliance for $103,000.
The New Hope-Iola Ski Hill segment is now permanently protected as part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The agreement allows the Ice Age Trail to run a little more securely for over a mile through eastern Portage and western Waupaca counties.
The segment, which overlays cross-country ski trails, has existed on the property for years through a voluntary agreement between the IWSC and the Portage County chapter of the IATA. Portage County chapter volunteers helped extend the segment west from County Road Z to Sunset Lake Road to the doorstep of the New Hope Pines State Natural Area.
This extension of the Ice Age Trail changes the connecting route that heads north to Marathon County. The easement agreement allows permanent public access to the trail and will help to permanently preserve the natural qualities of the property.
The trail acquisition was over four years in the making. The trail segment has been a part of the Iola Winter Sports Club for more than 15 years.
“Good things take a long time to make right,” IWSC board member Greg Taylor said.
“It’s good for the Ice Age Trail,” IWSC president Darcy Oligney said. “Now they will never lose that portion of the trail.”
The purchase of this easement was made possible by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The IATA leveraged a previous easement donation from a Columbia County landowner to secure the needed matching funds.
The Iola property is the latest in a long list of land preservation victories brought about by the fund. The IWSC has enrolled most of its forested acreage in the Wisconsin Managed Forest Program, a state Department of Natural Resources program to promote sustainable forestry.
Not only does the new agreement protect the trail that’s there now, it also lays the foundation for future trail nearby.
“This easement helps us set an anchor point for future acquisitions that we hope will permanently protect the trail in the area,” land conservation director Kevin Thusius said.
New Hope-Iola Ski Hill segment
Ski trails crisscross the IWSC property, which, unlike the Ice Age Trail, are not open to the public. Cross-country skiers pay a fee to use over seven miles of trails maintained by the IWSC. Four miles of the cross-country trail are lit for night skiing. The trail is open to nonmembers on weekends and evenings.
According to Oligney, the $103,000 will be saved to help the IWSC purchase more property.
“We would like to secure more land for the cross country ski trail,” he said.
The Iola Winter Sports Club is a nonprofit organization that exists to promote the winter sports of cross country skiing and ski jumping. The club’s focus is on family recreation with an emphasis on introducing children to cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Each year, about 90 children participate in the IWSC’s Youth Ski League, which is completely supported through membership fees, grants and donations by area organizations. The IWSC is made up of volunteers who put in many hundreds of hours to provide a good family experience of skiing and hiking.
The Ice Age Trail, one of 11 national scenic trails, is a 1,200-mile footpath highlighting Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources. The trail starts in Potawatomi State Park north of Sturgeon Bay and ends in Interstate State Park south of St. Croix Falls. About 600 miles of it are actual trail. The remainder is back roads connecting the trail segments.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance is a nonprofit volunteer- and member-based organization established in 1958 that works to create, support, protect and promote the Ice Age Trail. Visit www.iceagetrail.org for more information.